Successful Aging – book suggests things you can do to age better

February 3, 2022

Author Daniel J. Levitin begins his book Successful Aging by noting that he once saw aging “only as a failing: a failing of the body, of the mind, and even of the spirit.”

But now, he writes, “I’ve seen a different side of aging. My parents are now in their mid-eighties and are as engaged with life as they have ever been, immersed in social interactions, spiritual pursuits, hiking and nature, and even starting new professional projects.”

This detailed, well-researched book looks at some of the reasons why some of us age better than others, as well as some steps we can consider on our own to improve our personal aging process.

Levitin identifies The Big Five dimensions that those who age well seem to possess as follows:

  1. Extraversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Emotional Stability versus Neuroticism
  5. Openness to Experience + Intellect (also called Imagination).

Levitin disputes the notion that memory loss is a sort of “normal” age-related impairment.

Older people can benefit from memory assistive tools, such as “using their electronic calendars as a combination to-do list and sticky paper reminder system… they love the freedom of being able to relax their minds, to let go of worrying about what they might be forgetting… and just the act of writing things down, of paying close attention to what they want to schedule, has improved their memories,” he writes.

On the topic of dementia, Levitin notes that “the biggest challenge faced by dementia is the public narrative of despair, that nothing can be done about it.” He says that negativity should be replaced with hope, and “the recognition that people with dementia are still there.”

A later chapter looks at why some older people are still intellectually thriving.

“I’ve come to believe that life after seventy-five can launch a period of intellectual growth, and not mere maintenance,” he writes. He notes that the great cellist Pablo Casal continued to practice heavily after age 80, saying that he wanted to get better, and because he believed “that self-improvement and expertise are possible at any age, whether it’s intellectual, physical, emotional or spiritual.”

He’s a believer in life-long learning. “If you’re reading this book,” he writes, “there’s a good chance you are motivated to learn, that you benefit from an innate or cultivated curiosity about the worlds. As we’ve seen, curiosity can be protective against aging, and a great motivator to obtain an education, which is also protective.”

He sees “social connectedness” as being key to “a long health span and a long life,” adding that loneliness “is associated with early mortality.”

On pain management, he observes that “effective distraction” through “exercise, interesting conversation, practicing yoga, meditation, socializing, listening to soothing music, or immersing yourself in nature” can help you through it.

And on exercise, he notes that “exercising on a treadmill is good. Walking around the neighbourhood is better. Walking in nature is the best.”

Nine hours of “restorative sleep” is a positive measure to reducing the impacts of aging, he writes.

He concludes with this thought – instead of wondering who to pass the torch to as you grow old, “hold onto your torch. Do not go gently. And don’t forget to laugh. Whatever’s going on around you, remember to laugh.”

This is an excellent addition to any personal library – the great advice and interesting research covered in this book is expressed with an unwavering, and very comforting, sense of optimism.

A financial consequence of aging well is longevity. While we all want to live to a ripe old age, there can be challenges if you get so advanced in years that you have outlived your money. The Saskatchewan Pension Plan allows its members to receive some or all of their retirement benefits in the form of an annuity – a lifetime monthly payment. It’s one of the tools the SPP offers to help your finances, no matter how long you’ll need them. Check out SPP today.

Join the Wealthcare Revolution – follow SPP on Facebook!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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